J.D. Soileau stands on the front porch of his truly remarkable bousillage (mud made from a mixture of moss, dirt and water) house in Point Blue. Soileau was given the home, which is roughly 180 years old, by Woodrow Veillon in 1992 and he has since then filled it with antiques he has collected over the years. (Ville Platte Gazette photo by Claudette Olivier)
Point Blue bousilage house is a living museum
By Elizabeth West
Ville Platte Gazette
POINT BLUE — There is a unique home that brings life to a part of the beloved French history and culture of Evangeline Parish.
Positioned right along Bayou des Cannes in Point Blue is a bousillage (mixture of clay and moss) house that is roughly 180 years old, which through its fine details provides a glimpse into the unbelievable craftmanship of the home’s builders — a Chataignier family.
In 1992, this home fell into the hands of J.D. Soileau — a man who has a passion for collecting antiques.
“I like antiques and old things,” said Soileau. “And Mr. Woodrow Veillon wanted to get rid of this house so he gave it to me. He told me ‘one day I’ll go burn it or I’ll give it away if someone wants,’ so I said I want it.”
The home that Soileau saved was built by Veillon’s grandfather Louis Veillon in the mid 1800s and was located just north of Chataignier. Since acquiring the home, Soileau has moved it to his property in Point Blue.
This unique structure made of bousillage and yellow pine is where Louis raised his family, but today this house is filled with a variety of artifacts that are as old as the home itself.
While each piece in the house is a treasure, the actual structure of the home, according to Soileau, is truly a work of art.
Soileau said, “What is so unique about this house is that it has that mud in the walls, that bousillage. The house is also made of yellow pine where as a lot of these houses were made with cypress. Yellow pine was as good as cypress.”
The process of making the bousillage or plaster that would fill the gap between the post that comprised the frame of the house is one that is very similar to a part of the wine making process.
The Point Blue native said, “To make the mud for the house they dug a big hole in the ground and they had gathered their moss. They would put water in the hole with moss and dirt and they would stomp on it like they stomp the grapes in Italy. That’s how they would mix it.”
The thick mud provided insulation, which during the winter helped keep the house warm and during the summer helped keep it cool.
When it came to dating the mud house, there was no one that could give an exact year that the home was built by the Veillon family. However, Soileau’s curiosity led him to seek help in determining at least a round about year that this French Acadian style home was build.
Soileau said, “I had a man come out here and look, and they claim that according to the nails it was built in the 1840s or 1850s because it is all square nails. Every nail is different because they were handmade in the blacksmith shop.”
Another interesting part about the structure of the home are the pegs that the builders used to hold pieces of wood together.
Soileau said, “One thing that is very different than what you see today is the construction. It’s got pegs. They would have to drill a hole and they would use a peg to hold all the wooden posts together. They didn’t use nails on this part of the house (inside).”
These pegs and even the square nails are visible to visitors, but what is hidden under the house Soileau says is also something different than what you see today.
Soileau said, “The joists that hold the floor is some cypress trees that are about eight to 10 inches in diameter and they flattened the top of them to hold the floor up.”
Today the home remains in almost its original state with three bedrooms — one of which has been converted into a bathroom — a kitchen and a living room.
What has changed in the home is the small back porch that connects the kitchen to the main house. Originally the porch was opened which provided a nice breezeway but today the breezeway is closed in. The stairs that were on the porch or breezeway are still intact and lead to the large attic in the home.
This small piece of paradise that Soileau has created by placing this piece of Louisiana history along a Louisiana bayou has even caught the eye of people from France, who wrote a story on this Evangeline-made home back in 1997. During their visit to Evangeline Parish, Soileau also made sure to provide them with a true Louisiana experience.
Soileau said, “The house appeared in the magazine Notre Temps in Paris in 1997. They came and did an interview and I got to take the people in the boat crawfishing. They were amazed.”
Just like the individuals from France, this special home that Soileau saved has even attracted individuals right from inside the parish. From school groups to people just passing through, every person who takes a step back in time by entering this true bousillage house leaves their mark by signing a guest book that Soileau has out by the front door. This remarkable home even provided the Ville Platte Gazette with the perfect backdrop for their Christmas photo this year.
Every experience that people have had at this unique home would have never been possible without Soileau’s keen eye for antique treasures and his desire to to save old things.
Soileau said, “I just wanted to save it because I hated to see it go. There aren’t many houses left like this and I’m glad that people have enjoyed coming see it.”